June 25, 2011

Dumb business op-eds day at NYT, part 2

The Sunday NYT op-eds page has two real clunkers, both on business news. (I'm not counting MoJo Dowd's clunker about Obama being "bi" on gay marriage; I know that's what it's about without clicking the link, which I refuse to do.)

Anyway, back to business stupidity, and from the NYT's two business-focused columnists not named Paul Krugman. Dave Leonhardt and Joe Nocera both write clunkers, huge ones.

Leonhardt at least could have some degree of rightness in his column about college.

Joe Nocera's uncritical love affair with the Chevy Volt admits to no such rightness at all, though.

The reason Chevy's rollout is slow, Joe? Probably due to GM's continued suckitude with the vehicle, mixed with marketing come-ons landing suckers.

The cool gauge you talk about? The Prius first had that almost a decade ago.

The alleged way in which the Volt runs differently than a Prius? GM itself has admitted the Volt is a hybrid.

Nocera then uncritically accepts the views of auto analysts who diss the all-electric Nissan Leaf. Would these be the same who dissed the hybrid Prius, Joe? As for whether lithium-ion batteries are ultimately the best for electric cars, if they're not, the Leaf doesn't have to be rebuilt from ground zero, Joe. People made the same arguments about battery power and prices against the Prius, too, Joe. And, look how much Toyota improved the Prius from first to second generation.

Even more laughable, Nocera next absolves GM from any blame for killing the EV1.

Finally, he ignores how much behind timetable the Volt was through its whole development process.

Dumb business op-eds day at NYT, part 1

The Sunday NYT op-eds page has two real clunkers, both on business news. (I'm not counting MoJo Dowd's clunker about Obama being "bi" on gay marriage; I know that's what it's about without clicking the link, which I refuse to do.)

Anyway, back to business stupidity, and from the NYT's two business-focused columnists not named Paul Krugman. Dave Leonhardt and Joe Nocera both write clunkers.

First, Dave Leonhardt argues going to college is a good investment even if you're just a cashier afterward.

Here's "interesting" comment one:
First, many colleges are not very expensive, once financial aid is taken into account. Average net tuition and fees at public four-year colleges this past year were only about $2,000 (though Congress may soon cut federal financial aid).
He ignores that more elite public colleges charge more than that, that much of the financial aid today is loan-based, not grant-based as when I was in college, and that much of the loan-based financial aid is not federal loans, or even federally-guaranteed private loans, therefore, it's loans with high interest rates.

Then, he subconsciously admits college today, and the alleged need for it, is due to academic inflation, even though that's NOT the gist of his argument:
Construction workers, police officers, plumbers, retail salespeople and secretaries, among others, make significantly more with a degree than without one. Why? Education helps people do higher-skilled work, get jobs with better-paying companies or open their own businesses.

This follows the pattern of the early 20th century, when blue- and white-collar workers alike benefited from having a high-school diploma.
But, if college today is for non white-collar people what high school used to be, then we have academic inflation.

Finally, there's this unsubstantiated claim:
Then there are the skeptics themselves, the professors, journalists and others who say college is overrated. They, of course, have degrees and often spend tens of thousands of dollars sending their children to expensive colleges.

I don’t doubt that the skeptics are well meaning. But, in the end, their case against college is an elitist one — for me and not for thee. And that’s rarely good advice.
No proof is offered of this alleged "elitism."

Beyond this, Leonhardt never asks if all high school graduates, or adult higher education students, are psychologically a good fit for traditional college.

Several recent surveys have addressed this issue by proposing a new vo-tech system, but one that doesn't have the race-based tracking of the past. Leonhardt appears clueless about this.

More on the maybe not-so-dumb Obama-IEA oil dump

That joint agreement by the United States and the International Energy Agency to release crude oil from strategic petroleum reserves? The one that had everybody scratching their head over its timing?

Well, there's more to it. As in, this may have been the equivalent of a pool bank shot, primarily involving Washington, the EU, speaking through the International Energy Agency, ... and the Saudis.
As early as May 11, Mr Obama telephoned King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to “discuss bilateral issues”, according to the Saudi press agency.
Boom ...

And, this wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing:
For three months, dozens of senior oil officials from the US, South Korea, Germany and Japan worked secretly to execute what was one of the most daring moves by the International Energy Agency since its creation in 1974.
And, that's about the time we first started bombing Libya, on the usual delusional American belief that we'd topple Gaddhafi in a week or two.

There's one "interesting" part. In a story about how the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is investigating "suspicious" trades in oil just before the decision was announced, it notes the Saudis had already agreed to a production increase.

Maybe the White House thought it would take too long. Or that it would be of too low a quality compared to Libya's vaunted low-sulfur crude.

Or maybe all involved wanted to send a double-slapdown message to ... ohhh ... Iran and Venezuela?

Per the FT article linked at top:
In early May, Mr Obama dispatched a team of senior advisers to the region, including Michael Froman, White House deputy national security adviser, Daniel Poneman, deputy energy secretary, and Neal Wolin, deputy treasury secretary, for talks with Riyadh, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi.

Washington found the Saudis willing to ensure adequate supply.

The IEA nonetheless decided to send a clear message to the market that it was ready to act. On 19 May, at the conclusion of a regular meeting of its board of governors in Paris, the agency said: “We are prepared to consider using all tools that are at the disposal of IEA member countries.”
Venezuela and Iran, along with Algeria, were the three hardliners in the most recent OPEC meeting against raising production.

At the same time, Western nations didn't want to look like this was being done for too narrowly economic reasons, but, after the Saudis couldn't "carry" OPEC with them, decided to act. Japan, Britain and South Korea were other major "movers" on getting the IEA to act.

The primary beneficiary? Most of Libya's oil, of a very high quality, goes to Europe. So, even though the White House started the ball rolling, Europe had good reason to jump in, via the IEA.

The U.S.? Well, analysts as far away as Hong Kong are saying this will be the gateway for more "quantitative easing," but by different name and means. In fact, Forbes calls it QE2.5. If that's the case, and if it actually gets Obama himself, not just Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, to do something more in the way of stimulus-like action, then that's good.

Obama still not quite getting the jobs concept, I think

Touring a research lab that can make robots that can even mow a lawn or scrape old paint isn't a good way to talk about jobs, I don't think.

There's plenty of people building robots right now; the number of new jobs there isn't THAT likely. But, the number of jobs of lawn-mowers who could be replaced by robots? (Especially if we throw the illegal-alien-as-groundskeeper gasoline on this fire?) Pretty big.

Then there's the unquestioned implications:
In his radio and Internet address, the president promoted a plan he outlined Friday in which the government would join with universities and corporations to re-ignite the manufacturing sector with an emphasis on cutting-edge research and new technologies.
So, the manufacturing sector isn't emphasizing cutting-edge research and new technologies right now?

Of course, the GOP response is either even stupider or a crass lie. Or both. They're not mutually exclusive.
In the Republican's weekly address, Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina proposed a different remedy to boost businesses.

Ellmers, who owns a small medical practice with her husband, said the Republican plan would reduce regulations, expand domestic energy production and require the government to consider the effect of federal rules on hiring.

"The job creators we hear from, they don't have their hand out," she said. "They don't want a bailout. All they ask us to do is get government out of the way."
Really? Lobbying for tax breaks? Scrounging for economic development money or property tax breaks at the local level? That's not a "hand out"?

Bullshit.

WHAT 'debt problem'? There isn't one in the mid-term future

Type your summary here Type rest of the post here

All we have to do, per the top graphic, is let the Bush Obama tax cuts expire.

Hat tip Talking Points Memo, except for it continuing to call the Obama tax cuts the Bush tax cuts.

Well, we eliminate the mid-term future deficit if we let the Obama tax cuts expire AND actually enforce cuts in Medicare reimbursement to doctors that Congress passed 15 years ago.

That's actually a huge "if," since future Congresses have continually given one- or two-year waivers on implementing those fee cuts.

Why the concept of '100-year events' in nature is wrong

Homes are reflected in flood waters in Minot, N.D. on Saturday.
As the Souris River in North Dakota moves as much as 5 feet above an 1881 flood record, and as the Missouri River Valley worries about flooding in weeks ahead, and faces its own fair share now, we continue to hear about "100-year-floods" and other 100-year events.

This is just wrong.

First, we don't know how much anthropogenic global warming is skewing the issue. But, here's a bit of insight by Penn State's Michael Mann:
"Even a couple degree warming can make a 100-year event a three-year event," Mann, the head of the university's earth systems science center, told AFP.

"It has to do with the tail of the bell curve. When you move the bell curve, that area changes dramatically."
I'm also wondering, per the Wall Street meltdown and the failures of the "quants" to know it could happen ... is that "tail" getting fatter until we hit a new equilibrium?

Second, beyond that, in much of the U.S., we've only been taking detailed weather measurements for about 100 years. To measure just 100 years of anything, and assume that represents an average out of a longer period in history, is simply wrong. It's intellectually stupid.

It's like looking at world history since 1914 and making assessments about a 100-year average of world violence.

It's unbelievable that people do this anywhere, just for the second reason. For both reasons, it's doubly unbelievable that professional climatologists and meteorologists still talk like this.

It makes the public think, even short of AGW, that we can predict severity of climate issues with more accuracy than we can. It's probably been a factor in continued building in floodzones that may not be 100-year floodzones, but 50-year floodzones for all we know.

Ditto on the flip side in overbuilding in the vicinity of Western river basins, as anybody who knows the history of the Colorado River Compact and the acceptance of a series of heavy flow years as "average."

June 24, 2011

#RickPerry, Texas GOP use smoke and mirrors, kick budget can down road

This AP story nails it ... despite pre-start-of-session promises that the Texas Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry would actually cut the budget, much of the budget cutting is "smoke and mirrors and misdirection," as Democratic State. Sen. Garnett Coleman put it, while there's still real, painful shortfalls to things like education, and some of that caused by the smoke and mirrors as well as actual cuts.

Details of the smoke and mirrors? Right here.
The first accounting shift was to delay a $2.3 billion payment owed to public schools in 2012-2013 by one day, so that the bill isn't technically due until 2014, thereby going into the next budget. The new budget also assumes there will be no growth in the number of school children in Texas, even though it is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. Critics say the state will short school districts $2 billion that way.

Lawmakers also decided to rewrite the laws that determine how Texas pays for public education, since the Legislature could not afford what the law mandated. They slashed $4 billion in what will be the first cut in per-student spending in Texas since World War II. Districts must either lay off thousands of teachers and increase class sizes, increase local property taxes or both.

Republican leaders came up with another $800 million on paper by ordering the Legislative Budget Board, essentially the Legislature's accountants, to forecast a faster increase in land values in order to show more property tax income for schools. While signs do point to a recovering economy, state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, found the move dishonest.

"The education cuts hurt our children and economy and the accounting tricks will put the state into a deeper ditch in two years," Villarreal said.

Lawmakers also chose to ignore the estimated $4.8 billion extra it would need for the Medicaid health care program because of Texas' fast-growing population and high poverty rate. By simply opting not to budget for it, conservatives showed their hatred for the program and could technically balance the budget.
Of course, this is nothing new.

The state's been lying about things like "fee increases" not being tax increases for years. And, it has raised taxes.

Obama's dumb oil move

Tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

First, the amount it contains? 727 million barrels, per Wikipedia, is enough that it can't be tapped too often, too hard.

Wiki also says the current consumption per day is 21 million barrels so Obama's 30 million barrels actually lasts less than a day and a half (just over 1 day, 10 hours to specific), per fried Leo Lincourt.

So, add up A and B, and contra Salon's Andrew Leonard, it's possible this will NOT stop oil speculation. (I'm also assuming Saudi Arabia's talk about raising production is a lot of talk and not much else, given its recent unmothballing of a field that that had been in drydock for years.) The market remains relatively tight. It might take the sharpest edges off speculation, but that's about it. And, due to the realities of what the strategic reserve contains, commodities speculators know that.

Beyond that, Obama's never showed any real inclination to reign in speculators. If he had, he would have tighten commodity, commodity futures, and commodity derivatives legislation.

But, since many of those folks are the ones who were major bankrollers of the mythical Citizen Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and whom he hopes will be the same in 2012, he's not going to regulate them in the future.

This was just about trying to give the economy enough of a nudge, without having to make any actually liberal political decisions, to boost his election chances.

But, this is about more than Obama. The International Energy Agency signed off on this too.

This is also in part about post-Fukushima Japan, worried about summer energy needs with some of its nuclear plants offline. Or so I'm guessing. It's about the EU, hoping this will take the mind off of bailout trauma in Greece and bailout payment trauma in Germany. And, it's about China hoping it can continue to keep its housing and other bubbles from bursting.

Well, I don't know what the answer is for Japan. For Greece, austerity won't address a culture of tax evasion and corruption that makes the legal-on-paper antics of folks like the Koch Bros. look like kindergarten, and cheap oil won't camouflage austerity. For China, as Paul Krugman wrote the other day, only an upward re-evaluation of the renmimbi (yuan) has a serious chance of deflating those bubbles without too much pain or destruction.

On Europe, as I learn more ... it's supposed to replace the missing Libyan oil, most of which went to Europe. So, I wasn't totally wrong there.

China? At least one market analyst in that area, as well as some in the U.S., suspect "coordination" with Fed chief Ben Bernanke's speech about a slowing economy, and that this will be the gateway for more "quantitative easing," but by different name and means. In fact, Forbes calls it QE2.5

Meanwhile, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is investigating "suspicious" trades in oil just before the decision was announced. Getting back to lack of regulation - such insider trading isn't illegal in the commodities markets.

And, back to the "timing" issue, too. The story notes the Saudis had already announced a production increase.

So, many this was a bank shot against the non-Saudi members of OPEC, played in conjunction with Riyadh?

June 23, 2011

Loser in Cantor's debt hissy fit: We the people

What's likely to happen in national debt discussions now that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has walked out?

1. Biden and Obama possibly "chasing" Cantor to some degree, watering down any "compromise."

1. A Wall Street tilt back to Democrats in general and Obama in particular, guaranteeing the re-election of this semi-conservative (or whatever, he's not liberal) Democratic president.

And, that's why we the people lose, if Cantor decides to remain outside the tent.

Obama, gay rights, evolution, timing

Isn't amazing how Preznit Kumbaya can talk about how his stance on gay rights is "evolving" just before heading to NYC to solicit shake down big-dollar gays for campaign dinero?
"It's hilarious," said a prominent gay Obama supporter who urges skeptics to credit his accomplishment - especially the landmark repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy - rather than focus on his holdout on gay marriage.

"He's done far more than any other recent president on these issues. . But I can't imagine he could possibly avoid talking about this on Thursday. He's said his position on gay marriage is evolving - well, here's his chance to share it with us."
Well, no he won't. If he truly is evolving, his evolution won't become public until 2013. If he isn't, well, nothing will happen.

Besides, by visiting Rick Warren in 2008, Obama showed he's got a huge hypocrisy streak on this issue.

Ditto on him congratulating gay couples getting married in California's pre-Prop. 8 "window" while saying he opposed gay marriage.

LinkedIn becomes SpammedIn to a whole new dimension

The Dallas-Fort Worth regional jobs feed on LinkedIn got hit by at least 30 spam posts, all on different subthreads, about different offers, and even position wanted subthreads.

Actually, I think the LinkedIns, Monsters and CareerBuilders of the world deliberately allow some degree of this on the free versions of their services to try to drive people to the paid versions.

Oct. 24, 2013: LinkedIn's latest spamminess? This idea of intruding into your personal email flow.

No recession for the rich, Sierra Club version

"Huh?" you may be saying at that headline.

Here's the explanation.

On a nonprofits job board, I saw that Sierra is advertising for its first-ever creative director.

Now, in case you're wondering what that job is ... a creative director is usually a position at medium-and-up advertising, marketing, PR, and "branding" firms. It's the person/position supposed to be an ideas generator of what new and artsy-fartsy will "sell" in terms of print ads (both text and graphics), radio and TV ads, web ads, etc.

So, it's NOT a position you'd find at an environmental agency.

Unless it's a "Gang Green" agency that is both seeking to "brand/rebrand" itself AND that now has the money to do so.

Which is where the "rich" come in.

Nonprofit donations, including from the upper middle class and the rich, took a big hit in The Great Recession. That's especially true in enviro groups, where the vast majority of recurring donors are upper middle class and above, Volvo-driving, latte-sipping, Mayer-lemon-lemonade-making white neoliberals. Sierra couldn't be creating a position like this unless it had bucks coming in again from folks like these.

Ergo, the recession is definitely over for upper middle class and above, Volvo-driving, latte-sipping, Mayer-lemon-lemonade-making white neoliberals. QED.

June 22, 2011

Obama on A-stan ... timid withdrawal, except to warmongers

President Barack Obama announced nothing new in his Afghanistan speech.

So, Dana Milbank, stopped watch time, I guess, is probably right in calling this Obama's "mission accomplished speech." Enough troops will be withdrawn over the next year to reduce U.S. casualties. We'll continue to lie about Afghan National Army development, Karzai corruption levels, etc.

Contra Richard Cohen, whose stopped clock was last right a month ago, this does NOT mark "America's decline." Not unless you believe we should be empire-building.

Which John McCain is, to the point that George Will has soured on him.

Bottom line is, this speech satisfies nobody ...

Except Obama's 2012 re-election campaign staff.

First Oregon, now Arizona: Religion no excuse for criminal behavior

Last week in Oregon, faith healing parents Timothy and Rebecca Wyland were found guilty of criminal neglect over failure to take their own daughter to a doctor.
The couple's daughter, Alayna, was born in December 2009 with a birthmark above her left eye that developed into abnormal growth of blood vessels, known as a hemangioma, that slowly engulfed her left eye and produced a goopy discharge. Despite the growth and accompanying loss of vision, the Wylands did not consult a doctor.
As the picture shows, this was clearly evident to the parents.

Now, New Age "guru" James Ray has been convicted of negligent homicide in the sweat lodge deaths of three people in New Age mecca Sedona, Ariz. He beat the rap on a more serious manslaughter charge, but could still get as much as 30 years in prison.

And he should, per this:
“You will have to get to a point to where you surrender and it’s O.K. to die,” Mr. Ray said in a recording during the ceremony that was played at the trial.
Unfortunately, the judge didn't remand Ray into immediate custody.

That said, next? A bunch of lawsuits against Ray. That may, though it's not likely, cut back on some of this.

Should MLB expand rosters to 26?

I think Jeremy Crasnick has a good idea - with one omitted exception.

Expand to 26 in exchange for killing the DH.

That said, Crasnick gets Whitey Herzog-era St. Louis Cardinals history plain wrong.

Right-handed reliever Todd Worrell did NOT play the OF "in emergencies." Rather, lefty Ken Dayley came in as an early equivalent of today's LOOGY, or left-handed one-out guys, relievers, and Whitey kept Todd in the game by moving him to the OF for one batter.

And, getting the facts correct slightly undercuts his argument.

That said, 26 on a roster would be great. But, let's kill the DH in exchange and speed games up a bit.

The Fortune 500 cover Fortune will never print

Type your summary here Type rest of the post here

NYT blindly loves Chinese high-speed rail

After a brief acknowledgement that some Chinese are talking about its shoddy construction, the old gray lady jumps into a lovefest for Chinese high-speed rail.

What it either overlooks or deliberately misstates?
1. Those soaring property costs area construction bubble very similar to the one the U.S. had just a few years ago; they have little to do with high speed rail, and they exist in places outside of high0-speed rail corridors,
2. Just how shoddy the rail construction is — shoddy enough that trains aren't allowed to run at close to max speeds. Those trains will NEVER get up to 350 km/hour without the entire track system being relaid.

Beyond that, the story is of little relevance for the U.S. until enough mindsets change to make high-speed rail economically viable. And that won't happen without carbon taxes.

Another nail in coffin of global-warming denialists

For some time now, deniers of anthropogenic global warming have had a "Plan B" at hand.

Just in case there's a partial reality to that, that they'll admit, they say that we shouldn't spend a bunch of prevention money anyway.

Why?

And, that has been the claim that ... cold spells kill more than heat waves.

Mark "paid" to that one.

In the Europe of the future, though, that won't be the case. And, in the U.S., that "switchover point" will likely come even earlier.

June 21, 2011

SCOTUS: WallyWorld, dirty air win

Shock me that 1.5 million Wallmart worers do not constitute a "class action." Shock me that the Supreme Curt ruling on this split on predictable 5-4 lines.
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So, as I see it retailers are best self-served by never looking at hiring complaints at individual stores, to thereby "insulate" themselves from legal liability. It's just like Alcoholics Anonymous, a past master at this, never looking at individual AA meetings and "13th stepping" complaints. Or the Southern Baptist Convention.

However, Walmart is neither of those; and that's why this ruling is simply wrong.

Wronger yet in some was, but on a unanimous basis, was the Court's dismissal of a suit by several states against electric utilities relying heavily on coal-fired power.

By the court's logic in this case, in any new area of pollution, the EPA just need announce that it plans to adopt some standards but never do so, and private entites remain precluded from pursuing nuisance suits.

That said, it's "nice" to know that business-kowtowing idiots on the court aren't always just conservatives.

Wrongest of all? Last week, SCOUTS' 5-4 ruling that basically eliminated the possibility of suing mutual funds for fraud. The tea partiers never bitch about the Court except when it comes to abortion, though.

But, contra many semi-liberal pundits, the "fivers" don't care that their actions expand income inequality or even that "originalism" never envisioned massive amounts of capital, and wealth disparities. They don't care.

And, by and large neither major political party cares, at least at the national level. Period.

June 20, 2011

Michael Polan is h alfway full of shit

Yes, we need to eat healthier. And yes, we need to reform corporatized agriculture so as to make it cheaper to eat healthier.

We DON'T need to write books that bullshit us about the reality of what farm life was like in the past, and often still is today.

The reality? Not Pollan's gauzy "bourgeois nostaligia," but this essay on going back to the farm ... and going back to farm-labor cooking.

First, the Polanesque nostalgia:
Listening to the conversation about food reform that has unspooled in this country over the last decade, it’s hard to avoid the idea that in terms of food production and consumption, we once had it right—before industrialization and then globalization sullied our Eden. Nostalgia glistens on that conversation like dew on an heirloom tomato: the belief that in a not-so-distant past, families routinely sat down to happy meals whipped up from scratch by mom or grandma.
The reality? Farming involves WORK. And 19th-century, pre-mechanized agriculture on smaller farms involved a lot of it.

That's why the essay notes that "family" farming a century ago was already looking at ways for farming to become easier and more convenient. That's why people loved canning. And the railroads(when they weren't getting ripped off on rates), and especially refrigerated railroad cars. That's why they bought mechanical tractors. They wanted convenience.

And, if convenience, in terms of mechanization, was too hard to come by, or too expensive, there was always good old "Plan B":
There is an even more fundamental concern about our nostalgia: America’s food system has always depended on the exploitation of someone, whether it was indentured servants, slaves, tenant farmers, braceros and other guest workers, or, now, immigrants. ... We have no history of a food system that does not depend on oppression of some sort, and it seems unlikely that we will be able to create a future system that avoids this fate.
It was easy for Thomas Jefferson to laud "yeoman farmers"; after all, all of them in the South had slaves!

Beyond that, per my friend Leo Lincourt, I have now expanded a great stereotyping phrase:
Dear white, Volvo-drinking, latte-sipping, Meyer-lemon-marmalade making (that one is going in my phrase stereotype book!) pseudoliberals: "Michael Pollan is a big poopy head."
Beyond that, Pollan's bourgeois nostalgia type farming is expensive. Obamiac Volvo-drivers can afford it, but not most of us. Pollan doesn't tell us that one, either, though.

#Pujols injury has silver lining — get a contract done!

The broken arm/wrist of Albert Pujols is expected to shelve him for 4-6 weeks. Can he use this time to lift his self-imposed season-long suspension of contract negotiations with the St. Louis Cardinals?

Yahoo's Jeff Passan not only says "Why not," he spells out, per suggestion from an agent (not Pujols' Dan Lozano) what would be good parameters for such a deal:
One agent not involved in the negotiations helped lay out the framework for a potential deal that would behoove both sides: eight years, $224 million – or $28 million a year, a record for a long-term contract. For the next three seasons, as Pujols remains in his prime and the Cardinals continue to churn out good, young, cheap players, he would receive $32 million a year. For the two seasons after that, his salary would dip to $29 million. The final three would represent the drop-off as he ages and, in concert with projected inflation, not look nearly as bad toward the end: $27 million, $24 million, $19 million.
The $32M puts him above A-Rod on a single-season basis, checking off the Pujols (and Lozano) ego boxes. If this needs to be tweaked, the Cards could do some lifetime incentive add-ons for 3K hits, 500 HRs, etc., like the Yanks are with Derek Jeter.

True, it's more than the Cards' brain trust wants, and on a per-year basis, much more than it offered before the start of the season. But, the team knows just how much he means. And, as Passan notes, since his early slump, since May 1, he's led MLB in home runs while striking out just three times.

A no-brainer. If Pujols, Lozano and Bill DeWitt/John Mozeliak have brains.

If it's not ideal, tweak it. Cut back a bit more on the salary after the first two "ego" years, add in this career incentives, cut one guaranteed year but add two option years to get Albert to a full 40.

Clarence Thomas, Harlan Crow, right-wing PR, high-dollar lynching

It's not at all shocking, given what we already know about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to read that he is bought and paid and in the back pocket of Dallas right-wing real estate magnate Harlan Crow, who is also on the board of the American Enterprise Institute.

Adn Frederick Douglass would probably be turning over in his grave, were he to know that Thomas had a bible that had once been his.

It's not shocking, either, but just as disgusting, to read high-brow wingnuts, such as D Magazine publisher Wick Allison, attempt to defend Thomas by claiming, as Wick does, that "he's no Abe Fortas"!

To which I replied:
Oh, please, Wick. Clarence Thomas is far *beyond* Abe Fortas. With Fortas, it was only about personal greed. With Thomas, it's a mix of that and a political philosophy injurious to, even destructive to, a large chunk of America, all wrapped in a mantle of pious sneering that Fortas never projected.
I mean, to shove Thomas' words back down his own big mouth, this is a Supreme Court Justice giving much of American, including his nonconservative black nonbrethren, a high-dollar lynching.

June 19, 2011

Science news: Unemotional #Botox? Internet addiction?

It's becoming recognized that Botox's facial wrinkle elimination also cuts down on users' facial expressions. Does that, in turn, cut down on users' abilities to empathize with others' emotions and expressions?

Initial research says yes.

The "gorilla unawareness" problem with focused human psychology is well known. But, can we also miss real-life situations, not just staged ones?

Again, initial research says yes.

It turns out people focused on some compelling issue can miss something as serious as an assault on a city street.
Psychologist Ira Hyman of Western Washington University in Bellingham says the new findings illustrate people’s tendency to overestimate their awareness of immediate surroundings. “We don’t yet know how strong this illusion is,” Hyman says.
Stay tuned on this one.

Meanwhile, speaking of psychology, traditional ideas of free will may be taking yet another hit.

Did "the bacteria made me do it" sound real? Maybe it should. After all, it's well known what the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis can do to cats.

Internet "addiction," or actual addiction? Now, while "process" addictions are different from chemical ones, and some people prefer the term "compulsion," they're still real. And, the fact that the Net, with heavy enough usage, can "rewire" at least younger brains, says there is cause for ... at least some concern, right?

Recession or depression?

I try to be a "glass half full" person on current economic issues, knowing that, to some degree, believing is seeing on economic trends and projections.

But, is "The Great Recession" more than that? Give this blog post a read. The blogger primarily talks about the steepness and rapidity of the drop in housing prices.

And, given apparent fraud, failure to secure titles, etc., the backlog of foreclosed homes could take years to clear.

KUDOS to NBC on "godless" pregolf Pledge

Before the start of the U.S. Open golf tournament's final round, NBC ran a special video segment of patriotic images and previous tournament winners, with a Pledge of Allegiance voiceover.

One "problem," which Red State wingnuttia immediately noticed. The Pledge was the original, pre-1954, pre-Red Scare version without the added phrase of "under god."

Here it is:



Unfortunately, corporate media NBC/Comcast then felt the need to apologize for this.

The Dark Side of the Internet — big fish/small pond syndrome

There are plenty of people in life who act like big fish in a small pond. Some really are, while others just act that way.

Pre-Internet days, all the real big fish in small ponds could do, a fair amount of the time, was "suffer away." Those around them might have to suffer to, and this was the case in spades for people who thought they were big fish in small ponds, while not necessarily actually being so.

Well, the Internet has changed all that and not necessarily or always for the better.

I think the evolutionary biologist cum Gnu Atheist activist P.Z. Myers is a good example of this.

To me, he seems like a decent academic biologist. That said, "decent" could be seen as damning with faint praise. It's not that, but there is an element of the scare quote to it, I freely admit.

I follow physics and cosmology/astronomy the most as far as academic sciences, so I'm not an expert, but, I think "decent" is about his level.

He's at the University of Minnesota-Morris, which isn't Harvard or even the UM main campus. And, he's old enough that he may now be facing up to the fact that UM-Morris is where the rest of his academic career plays out.

So, whether rightfully or not (and, I am thinking as much "not" as "rightfully") he's got a good case of the big fish, small pond syndrome. So what does he do? Gets more involved, and more involved, in Gnu Atheism, to a point of becoming one of its "Four Horsemen."

Some people may have legitimate new ideas they bring into play with finding or creating new cyberponds to stretch their fins and gills. Others, per the old bromide of "wherever you go, there you are," bring THAT to cyberswimming.